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Budgeting Without Stress
Budgeting seems like a great idea in theory, but the reality of putting it into practice can be stressful.
Here’s how to tackle budgeting in a stress-free way that also helps you achieve your financial goals.
1. Commit to a date. The first thing to do is set a “money date” with yourself (and your partner if you budget together). Pick an hour on the weekend — or a time when you know you’ll be relaxed — and commit to sitting down to review your budget.
2. Expenses. Make a list of categories of regular expenses, like rent or mortgage, utilities, phone, car payments, insurance, food, and gas. Next, list one-off or irregular expenses, like clothing, travel, haircare, and gifts.
3. Habits. Now that you have a list of expenses, it’s time to look at spending habits. Rather than treating this as a punitive exercise, think of it as a learning experience instead. Use your money date to review your bank account each week, and log how much you actually spend and on what category of item. Look for any trends: how much are you spending at Starbucks that you hadn’t listed on your initial expenses? Are you getting takeout more regularly than you thought?
4. Consider your financial goals. Do you want to save money, or pay down a credit card? Visualize how you’ll feel when you’ve paid off that high interest card or imagine sitting on the beach during the vacation you saved for. That goal can help make it easier to save.
5. Cut back. Once you have real-life goals in mind, you’re more likely to be motivated to save. Consider if you really need a latte every day, or would you rather have one a week and save the rest of the money?
6. Stay on track. There are a number of great apps available (Mint.com, or YouNeedABudget.com) that can take the hassle out of updating a spending log. They can help keep track of your goals easily and automatically.
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